Vol. 6 No. 25
June 20, 2005

Copyright © 2005
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Destination:Freedom
The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Leo King
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

For railroad professionals
Political leaders at all levels of government
Journalists from all media

* Now in our Sixth Year *

This page is best viewed at 800 X 600 screen resolution

 

IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  News Items 
Report and Commentary: The 2005 NCI Conference
House panel OKs route cuts
Pro-Amtrak rally draws policos
Harnish looks for four fast trains
Acelas expected to return in July
  Labor lines… 
NCCC ask again for a mediator
  Commuter lines… 
New Jersey is closer to new routes
First New Mexico car is done
MBTA discontinues ‘Night Owls
Sound Transit wants committee members
  APTA Highlights… 
Charleston, S.C., Recovers Service After Serious Setback
Mineta Unveils Human Service Transportation Coordination Plan
U.S. Chamber Study Shows Transportation Funding Shortfalls
Cotton Named Director for Phoenix Public Transit
  Selected closing quotes… 
  Wall Street lines… 
CSX reduces debt by $1 billion
  Across the pond… 
A postcard from Spain. Barcelona is another rail mecca
Voith to make noses for Chinese trains
China plans desert crossing
Tenerife tram plans get funding
  Off the main line… 
Lionel, Amtrak want kids’ essays
  End notes… 

NEWS ITEMS...  News Items...

Report and Commentary

The 2005 NCI Conference

Bipartisanship Matters” Launches the National Transportation Debate

By Jim RePass
President & CEO
The National Corridors Initiative

Washington, DC - Some of the nation’s key transportation advocates and business, environmental and union leaders, and ordinary citizens as well, gathered this past week in Washington at what participants said was one of the best - yet unsurprisingly one of the smallest - NCI conferences in memory.

Challenged by uncertainty on the fate of Amtrak, but attracting the usual round of superb speakers, thinkers and advocates, “Bipartisanship Matters”, heard Cassidy Associates President and former House Railroads Subcommittee head Jack Quinn urge attendees to “make noise; and organize in support of the national passenger rail system, while noting that we can no longer fund transportation projects from within the operating budget”.

A long-time supporter of Amtrak and a Republican repeatedly elected from an overwhelmingly Democratic District, Cassidy Associates’ new president was adamant that rail supporters must communicate, loudly, to be heard. Letter writing campaigns that target the media and decision-makers are one such technique, and can be very effective if done in a coordinated way, he noted

Quinn’s comments and NCI’s “Bipartisanship Matters” conference coincides with the start of a new House Passenger Rail Caucus lead by Congressmen. Michael N. Castle (R-DE), Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Robert E. Andrews (D-NJ); a similar effort is underway in the Senate. This new outburst of bipartisanship, largely absent in recent years in Washington, supports NCI’s efforts to promote a bipartisan approach to the growing transportation mess in America, where both freight and passenger rail systems are under-capitalized. And, in the case of the freight railroads, largely incapable of meeting the demand for timely efficient service.

As NCI has said, “For too long we have allowed the transportation agenda to be set by those with a financial self-interest in paving over America, and this conference launches TransPlan 21 to do something about that.”. TransPlan 21 is NCI’s name for a national grass roots campaign, beginning now, to make the transportation decision-making practice rational again by changing the committee structure in Congress so that it can fund transportation system as opposed to transportation modes.

Keynoting the conference’s second day was former Amtrak Board member and acting vice chairman, and former presidential nominee Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, told attendees that advocates must do two things: “insist on significant Federal investment, and develop a dedicated source of revenue for rail”. That source does not have to be the highway trust fund, the Governor transportation noted, so long as it provides a consistent financial underpinning for the rail system.

Speakers in addition to Jack Quinn and Michael Dukakis were: Amtrak Assistant Vice President for Strategic Planning Paul Nissenbaum, NCI member and rail advocate David Beale, a resident of Germany, Jacobs Engineering Principal Design Consultant Cesar Vergara, Railway Supply Institute President Tom Simpson, Former Amtrak Reform Council member and Corridor Capital LLC Board Chairman Atty. Jim Coston NCI Vice Chair For the North South Rail Link John Businger, Connecticut Sierra Club Transportation Chair and Stop Stealth Highways founder Molly McKay, National Association of Railway Passengers Executive Director Ross Capon, and Michael Replogle, Transportation Director for Environmental Defense. Also appearing was John Horsley, head of AASHTO (American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials, the national organization for state departments of transportation) and former Assistant Secretary for of Intermodalism for the US DOT.

Speaking also was former FRA Administrator and Amtrak Reform Council Chair Gil Carmichael, one of the nation’s most active rail advocates, and now senior Chair of the Intermodal Institute at the University of Denver, who is the leading proponent for “Interstate II”, a proposal to build national rail corridors just as the nation built national highway corridors starting in the 1950’s.

As important as any of the speakers at the conference are those who attend, and this year NCI was especially happy to have the leadership of the Atlanta-based Southeastern Economic Alliance, a consortium of 13 large Chambers of Commerce demanding rail service investment to create a Southern equivalent of the Northeast Corridor system, and Virginia High Speed Rail, also advocating rail service in the South and especially in the Washington-Richmond corridor, as well as Friends of the Earth, an important environmental organization pushing hard for better transportation planning and investment. Uniting business and environmental leadership on common ground to make America a better place, noted NCI, is one of its major goals.


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House panel OKs route cuts

Amtrak would have to end all of its cross-country routes, service between Chicago and New Orleans and the Auto Train to Florida under big cuts in taxpayer subsidies approved by a House panel, The AP reported June 15.

The proposed cuts, which will need approval of the full House and Senate, came as an Appropriations subcommittee approved a transportation funding bill that would slash Amtrak’s budget by more than half and limit federal subsidies to $30 per passenger per ride.

The cuts would not apply to most Amtrak service in the Northeast Corridor, as well as shorter corridor routes in the Midwest and California.

Panel chairman Joe Knollenberg, R-Mich., said those routes account for 80 percent of Amtrak’s ridership. He said some money-losing routes, such as the Sunset Limited between Los Angeles and Orlando, require federal subsidies of more than $400 per passenger.

“Congress will no longer sanction extremely unprofitable routes,” Knollenberg said.

Amtrak generally has stronger support in the Senate, where its money-losing routes serve many states represented by Republicans.

Even Knollenberg seemed to predict that his proposal would be modified later in negotiations with the Senate, comparing the day’s action to the third inning in a baseball game likely to go into extra innings.

The move drew protests from committee Democrats who said it would unfairly punish those who live in rural areas.

“There will be 31 states who lose all passenger rail service completely,” said John Olver, D-Mass.

Knollenberg said that the measure would not mandate the closure of any routes and that state and local governments could opt to subsidize them.

The new measure would provide $550 million for Amtrak, including $110 million for passenger subsidies on money-losing routes. Amtrak requested $1.8 billion in federal funding for next year and says that the House proposal would force a shutdown.

During last year’s budget cycle, lawmakers funded Amtrak at $1.2 billion.

USDOT Secretary Norman Mineta applauded the committee’s vote. He said, “Today’s action by the subcommittee demonstrates that some in Congress are ready to make the kind of difficult decisions necessary to instill in Amtrak sound business practices and fiscal responsibility. The subcommittee’s proposed funding level sends the same signal as that of the Administration: Amtrak must reform.”

Others, however, were not so warm to the idea, including Amtrak President and CEO David Gunn.

“The practical impact of $550 million in federal support would be the same as zero funding for Amtrak, and they know it,” he said.

In a message to employees, Gunn stated the dollar amount the panel approved is “a 55-percent cut from our present funding level. There’s still a long process ahead and this is not a done deal.”

Gunn, who has been at the Amtrak throttle for some three years after retuning to work from retirement, added, “Nevertheless, the practical impact of $550 million in federal support would be the same as zero funding for Amtrak, and they know it. It can’t run a single train from point A to point B – not on the Northeast Corridor and not anywhere.”

Gunn said, “In addition to appearing before the subcommittee formally, I have had numerous private meetings with these same members. They know that this amount of money will result in the termination of all intercity passenger rail service. Comments otherwise are just political spin.”

Some labor members were also unhappy over the vote.

Edward Wytkind, President of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) put it this way:

“Today’s disgraceful vote by the House Appropriations Subcommittee is a betrayal of Amtrak’s 25 million passengers and its 20,000 hard-working employees. The House panel ignored the mounting needs of a nation clamoring for greater, not worse, transportation. If Congress does not reverse this misguided vote, it would be the death knell for passenger rail in this country.

Wytkind added, “Amtrak workers have sacrificed for years because of their deep commitment to serving a nation of passengers. Not only does today’s vote demean their important work and many sacrifices, but an Amtrak liquidation would create a severe pension crisis for current and retired passenger and freight rail workers.

He also stated, “Transportation labor will work with Congressional supporters on both sides of the aisle to reverse today’s reckless action.”

The National Association of Railroad Passengers was equally displeased.

“Amtrak is hit with a fatal, 54 percent cut in funding while aviation and highway spending would rise by 6.4 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively, because, as the committee’s release notes, these programs get “unique preferential treatment... not afforded to any other discretionary program including Veterans Medical Care, Homeland Security funding or National Defense programs.”

NARP Executive Director Ross Capon explained, “The DOT Inspector General has testified that “intercity passenger rail needs federal funding between $1.4 billion and $1.5 billion, plus [a continuation of] existing state contributions, in order to maintain the status quo” but even this would not be enough “to move the system to a state-of-good-repair.”

Capon said “The idea that $550 million could do anything other than send Amtrak into bankruptcy is perhaps more easily understood when one considers that although Amtrak has incurred no new debt since mid-2002, debt service payments still are about $275 million a year.”


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Pro-Amtrak rally draws policos

Politicians, union representatives and environmentalists rallied in Baltimore’s stately Penn Station on June 14 for a bill that would provide Amtrak $6 billion over the next three years.

“If we don‘t properly fund Amtrak, then Amtrak goes down the tubes,“ said Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and member of the Transportation Committee,” The AP reported.

“Amtrak is safe, it is clean, it is efficient – and yet, the President has basically written Amtrak off.”

The politicians complained that airlines, ports, and highway projects receive billions of federal dollars, while the railroad, which carries 25 million annual riders to 500 stations in 46 states, languishes.

The bill has yet to be considered by the full House of Representatives. In the meantime, Amtrak is facing tough opposition from critics who say the federal government can’t afford to subsidize a poorly run passenger rail system.

Rick Inclima, a spokesman for the Brotherhood of Maintenance-of-Way Employes, which represents about 2,000 workers responsible for maintaining Amtrak tracks, said 20,000 union members across the country are “essentially running Amtrak on a shoestring”.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, worry about the consequences if millions are forced to abandon trains for already congested highways.

A few feet away from the rally, 68-year-old Mabel Baylor waited patiently in the station’s lobby for a train to Virginia.

“I would really suffer without Amtrak,” said Baylor, who has only flown once in her life. “It‘s really convenient and comfortable. An airplane, you've got to be there hours early to clear security. You can‘t talk and relax like you can on a train.”


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Harnish looks for four fast trains

Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Assn., is waiting for the day when there are four daily passenger train routes between Quincy, Ill. and Chicago. Before that happens, Harnish said Congress must fully fund Amtrak. In fact, he hopes the U.S. makes high-speed passenger rail a priority.

“We could be done with a high-speed route between Chicago and St. Louis in two or three years once we get the funding,” said Harnish at a joint meeting of the Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce and the Noon Kiwanis Club last week and reported by the Quincy Herald-Whig.

Harnish explained that Illinois already has invested close to $100 million to prepare the track for high-speed rail service between Springfield and Mazonia in the suburbs of Chicago. That could allow trains to travel 110 mph, up from the current top speed of 79 mph.

High-speed rail is one part of the regional plan, but three things have to happen before faster trains become a reality. New high-speed trains have to be bought, tracks have to be upgraded and congestion near certain rail hubs must be addressed. The Chicago-St. Louis route will be the first ready for high-speed travel in Illinois and it’s still years away.

The Zephyr route between Quincy and Chicago currently has a top speed of 79 mph, but is envisioned as a 90 mph line, but that will take upgrades at rail crossings and lots of track work.

Harnish said the move to four daily train routes could lead to tremendous growth in the number of riders.

Late last year Tom Carper, director of the Western Illinois Opportunity Returns region and a former mayor of Macomb, said the high-speed rail proposal could be phased in over several years.

“It gives people multiple options” if additional routes are added, Carper said.

Economic travel also is an issue for individuals, businesses, and government. Right now it costs $145 for government workers to drive a car round trip between Chicago and Springfield. It only costs $32 for the train trip.

The Midwest Regional Rail System is a cooperative effort among nine states to upgrade passenger rail service. The campaign began in 1996.


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Acelas expected to return in July

Amtrak CEO David Gunn said on June 13 he expects to see Acela Express trains to begin retuning to service in July.

“Progress is being made on the Acela problem and there is reason to believe that the manufacturer will have approved brake rotors soon. This means we may have the first of the trains coming back next month; but only gradually. When we have a real operating plan in place, I will let you know,” he told employees.

He was also critical of GAO testimony at a Congressional hearing a fortnight ago.

“While some of the criticism about our food service is fair, some of the testimony by Jay Etta Hecker of the GAO was false, and Bill Crosbie did a nice rebuttal job at the hearing.”

Gunn added, “There are some things that we are doing to better manage our food and beverage costs. First and foremost, the current contract is a bad one, and it’s not going to be renewed as it is.”

He urged front-line employees to help decrease losses.

“Too often I hear that cafés are not opening for the first 30 minutes of a trip or closing early, and especially around meal times that can mean hundreds of dollars in sales.”

He also noted “I was saddened by the GAO’s intimation that food service can be delivered by employees making minimum wage. That kind of talk is unfair to our employees. They don’t know what they are talking about.”


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LABOR LINES...  Labor lines...

NCCC ask again for a mediator

Citing both “significant challenges and unparalleled opportunities” for the railroad industry, the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) on June 14 again asked the National Mediation Board for help in resolving disputes with seven rail unions.

In separate applications filed Friday, the NCCC asked for mediation with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the six other unions that comprise the Teamsters-led rail labor coalition. The NCCC, the bargaining agent for the nation’s freight railroads, had filed applications for mediation in March, but voluntarily withdrew them May 10 in expectation that productive negotiations would continue.

“This bargaining round presents both significant challenges and unparalleled opportunities to continue the railroad industry’s transformation into a more vibrant, efficient and successful enterprise through measures that will benefit both employees and their companies,” Robert F. Allen, chairman of the NCCC, said in a letter to the NMB.

He noted that the issues in the current round of negotiations, which began last November 1, “are complicated but no more difficult” than matters that have been successfully resolved in past negotiations.

The BLET, which represents about 15 percent of U.S. rail workers in the current negotiations, stated an NCCC press release, cancelled a June 9-10 bargaining session after meeting with industry negotiators over three days in May.

Besides the BLET, the NCCC also filed for mediation with the American Train Dispatchers Assn; Brotherhood of Maintenance-of-Way Employes; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Blacksmiths, Iron Ship Builders, Forgers and Helpers; National Conference of Firemen and Oilers; and the Sheet Metal Workers International Assn.

The NCCC of the National Railway Labor Conference, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the national bargaining agent for the 32 railroads, including all of the nation’s major freight carriers, involved in the current round of bargaining with 13 major rail unions.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

New Jersey is closer to new routes

Two efforts to tap developers and business owners to help pay for road and commuter rail projects gained the approval of the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee on June 13, reports North Jersey.com. If approved by the full legislature, the two bills would create special taxing districts in the Meadowlands and along a proposed commuter rail line in eastern Bergen County.

“The people of eastern Bergen County have not had passenger service since 1966,” Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, D-Englewood, told fellow members of the committee as he pushed for a bill that would assess fees on commercial property to help pay for a Bergen County rail shuttle.

With transportation funding sources in jeopardy of drying up, lawmakers say they are simply trying to keep key transit and road projects moving ahead by developing new revenue streams.

Johnson’s bill, which now goes to the full Assembly, would allow six municipalities along the so-called Northern Branch to create a special taxing district.

Fees would be assessed on property deemed to benefit from the passenger rail line. Property owners who sell to developers also would be assessed fees. Other revenue would be generated from public parking lot fees.

No estimates have been made on how much money the assessments could generate, but Johnson and other lawmakers are hoping it will be enough to jump-start construction on the much-anticipated commuter line, which would run through Tenafly, Englewood, Leonia, Palisades Park, Ridgefield and Fairview.

NJ Transit is studying plans for the $500 million commuter rail shuttle that would connect to Hudson County’s light rail system and could one day link to a proposed new rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

Funds for the line have been scarce, however.

If the transportation district is created, bonds would be issued that would be repaid using future revenue. While three-quarters of the revenue would go toward reducing debt, up to 25 percent could be used by the transportation district to build sidewalks, pedestrian bridges and other improvements in the district.

The bill still needs support from the state Senate and state transportation agencies, including New Jersey Transit, which is building the rail shuttle.

The Meadowlands legislation, however, is even closer to reality.

If approved by the Assembly later this month and signed by acting Governor Codey, the bill would create an arm of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission that could begin assessing impact fees on future development within the 14-town district.


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First New Mexico car is done

Bombardier Transportation rolled out its first of 10 “BiLevel” commuter rail cars for a new service between Belen and Bernalillo, N.Mex June 14.

Representatives of the New Mexico Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG), the New Mexico DOT were on hand.

The coaches are scheduled for delivery between August and October 2005. The first car was completed in just eight months after a “Notice to Proceed” was given in October 2004. The new vehicles will run on New Mexico’s Rail Runner Express, the state’s first commuter rail line, by this year’s end.

The first BiLevel vehicle went into service in 1978 with GO Transit in Toronto.


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MBTA discontinues ‘Night Owls

Boston’s MBTA transit system says it is discontinuing its experimental Night Owl bus service as of June 24.

The overnight service bus parallels several of Boston’s major subway lines making limited stops along the routes, and offered overnight workers and others a way to get home, or at least closer to it, after the subway system closed at approximately 12:30 am each night.

Hailed by some as a much-needed alternative for those faced with having to take taxis or drive into the city and pay high parking rates, the Night Owl was unprofitable, and did not reach a break-even point. MBTA bus drivers were paid overtime.


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Sound Transit wants committee members

Sound Transit says it is accepting applications for membership on its Citizen’s Accessibility Advisory Committee. This committee advises Sound Transit staff on the accessibility of its services and facilities for people who are disabled or are senior citizens.

The committee is made up of two members from each of Sound Transit’s five geographic sub-areas – Snohomish County, North King County, South King County, East King County and Pierce County, as well as five at-large members from anywhere in Sound Transit’s service area.

Applicants should be people with disabilities, senior citizens, or advocates or staff from agencies that serve these populations.

For an application and details e-mail accessibility@soundtransit.org. Applications must be received by July 31.


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APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

Here are some other transit headlines, from the pages of Passenger Transport, the weekly newspaper of the public transportation industry published by the non-profit American Public Transportation Assn. For more news from Passenger Transport and subscription information, visit the APTA web site at http://www.apta.com/news/pt.


Charleston, S.C., Recovers Service After Serious Setback

Seventeen months after cutting its operations by 75 percent in order to remain in service, the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority in Charleston, S.C., is preparing for July, when it will restore much of the service it had been forced to eliminate.

“We’ve had our ups and downs, with mostly downs for the past two and a half years,” said CARTA Executive Director Howard Chapman. He was referring to the fallout from a November 2002 ballot victory that was overturned by the courts, and then the referendum win last November that will enable CARTS to restore much of its service.

“But on or about July 1, we’ll be putting out 17 routes where there were seven,” he added. Published reports stated that CARTA plans to add other services in January 2006.

In addition to the radical cutback of routes, CARTA also eliminated night, weekend, and holiday service, and operated paratransit only within three-quarters of a mile of fixed routes.


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Mineta Unveils Human Service Transportation Coordination Plan

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta released the White House report on Human Service Transportation Coordination on May 24, highlighting recommendations that would simplify the coordination of federally funded local transportation programs for persons with disabilities, lower income families, and older adults, as part of the federal United We Ride initiative.

In his remarks at the Community Transportation Association of America EXPO in St. Louis, Mineta outlined the five key recommendations in the report, including coordinated transportation planning, bringing together representatives of the various federal programs to plan their participation in community human service transportation needs.

He also suggested vehicle sharing, coordinating the use of the same vehicles for more than one federally supported transportation program, to reduce duplicative services and make more productive use of vehicles and drivers; Cost allocation, the development and endorsement of standard principles for transportation by federal human service and transportation industries, where statutorily permitted; Reporting and evaluation, using a method to permit cross-agency checks for the effectiveness, efficiency, and progress of states, communities, and tribes toward improved coordination of transportation programs, as determined by improvements in the quality and cost-effectiveness of human service transportation; and consolidated Access Transportation Demonstration Program, to test the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the new approach, a statutory authority be sought to permit the development of demonstration projects in metropolitan, rural, and tribal areas.

The vision, said Mineta, is to develop a “one-stop shopping [resource] where a customer will need to call only one number for a ride, regardless of where they are going or which agency will provide the funding.”


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U.S. Chamber Study Shows Transportation Funding Shortfalls

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a new study that shows current revenues at all levels of government—federal, state, and local—devoted to transportation investments are not sufficient to maintain or improve the nation’s highways and transit systems.

The Future Highway and Public Transportation Finance Study was commissioned by the National Chamber Foundation, the chamber’s public policy think tank, to identify funding mechanisms to meet national highway and transit investment needs. The study’s first phase was released May 18 at a Capitol Hill news conference. APTA is a co-sponsor of the study.


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Cotton Named Director for Phoenix Public Transit

The Phoenix Public Transit Department has named Debbie Cotton its director on a permanent basis, after serving in an acting capacity since November 2003. She oversees 84 city employees in a department with an annual operating budget of $140 million, which contracts with several private companies to provide fixed route (local, commuter, and circulator) and Dial-a-Ride services.

Cotton has more than 12 years of local government experience, including administering the department’s technology programs, implementing technology standards, and leading regional transit projects.


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STOCKS...  Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)50.6248.05
Canadian National (CNI)59.6958.65
Canadian Pacific (CP) 37.1534.75
CSX (CSX)44.1041.48
Florida East Coast (FLA)42.4741.78
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)29.9028.18
Kansas City Southern (KSU)20.0819.64
Norfolk Southern (NSC)32.9431.39
Providence & Worcester (PWX)14.4014.50
Union Pacific (UNP)66.8265.25


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WALL STREET LINES...  Wall Street lines...

CSX reduces debt by $1 billion

CSX Corp. Reported June 15 the results of its tender offers for up to $1.0 billion in aggregate principal amount of the notes. The offers began on May 17 and expired at midnight on June 14, 2005. $1,349,736,000 of outstanding notes have been tendered and not withdrawn through the expiration date, the firm stated.

The offers were presented in two separate smaller offers – one that covered three series of notes that mature in 2006 and one that covered nine series of notes each of which matures in or after 2017.

The aggregate principal amount of notes that will be purchased in the 2006 Notes Offer will not exceed $450,000,000, and the aggregate principal amount of notes that will be purchased in the Long Term-Notes Offer will not exceed $550,002,000. Because the aggregate principal amount of notes tendered exceeds these caps, CSX stated it would accept notes purchased based on the priority level in the manner described in the Offer to Purchase.

“With the successful completion of this transaction, CSX’s debt has been reduced by $1 billion,” said Oscar Munoz, CSX’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. “The transaction, which was net present value positive, immediately enhances the company’s credit profile and reduces ongoing interest costs.”


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ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

RENFE trains in Spain

NCI: Leo King

They look a lot like Amtrak’s Acelas, but RENFE’s Aves are Spain’s premier trains, like this trainset in Barcelona’s Sants station.

 

A postcard from Spain

Barcelona is another rail mecca

by Leo King
Editor

Barcelona, June 17 – This city is another one of those great rail cities rife with frequent trains – passenger or freight.

One of its two large passenger stations, Sants, sees Talgos, Aves (ah-veys), as well as Alteria and Arco intercity and commuter trains daily.

On my return to France after honeymooning in Tenerife and Barcelona, my bride and I took a RENFE train from the city to Cerbere, a rail hub just north of the Pyrenees mountains in France, changed trains to an SNCF conventional train that would take us to Marseille, and a local train back to La Ciotat. Most of our traveling was overnight.

Trains to and from Sants station go to such places as Grenada, Madrid, Seville, and Valencia, as well as many lesser-known places.

On July 2, it’s back to the U.S. and Florida for us.


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Voith to make noses for Chinese trains

The growing Chinese market has reached the doors of the Voith Turbo rail division. The firm will deliver 20 front nose sections, it reported May 31. They will be used on new high-speed trains, planned to run at 200 km/h, starting in December 2005. The Chinese Ministry of Railways recently submitted plans stating that about 1,200 of these new high-speed trains should be running by 2015.


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China plans desert crossing

Railway Gazette International reports work is to start this year on a 1,390 km line across the Ulan Buh and Badain Jaran deserts in northern China, connecting Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Xinjiang.

No timetable has been announced for completion of the line, which is being managed by Chinese Railways’ regional administration in Hohhot. It is intended to provide a direct link between Beijing and northwest China, following the historic northern Silk Road corridor.

Starting from Linhe on CR’s Baotou-Zhongwei route, the new line will run west for 1,070 km through Inner Mongolia, paralleling the Mongolian border to serve Daiain Hob and Saihan Toroi, already reached by a branch from Qingshuipu. Briefly passing through northern Gansu, the line will skirt the Karlik Shan mountain range before joining the Lanzhou-Urumqi route at Hami.

Officials from the Ministry of Railways and Sichuan have signed an accord to accelerate the construction of new lines in the province over the next five years. The work will cost about 8.4 billion yuan, including upgrading the Chengdu-Dazhou line as part of a high-capacity east-west corridor linking Chengdu, Wuhan and Shanghai. Other projects include double-tracking the Chengdu-Kunming and Chongqing-Suining lines plus construction of a new line from Lanzhou to Chongqi.

Elsewhere in China, the nation started building a 200-kph passenger railway last week on the border of northern Hebei and Shanxi provinces.

The line is the first passenger line of nine to start construction in the country this year. The line, with a length of 189.23 kilometers, runs from Shijiazhuang to Taiyuan, both provincial capital cities.

According to a mid- and long-term plan the Chinese government made last year, this line is part of a larger fast passenger line network.

With an investment of 12.64 billion yuan, the line will be completed in 2008. By then, the trip from Shijiazhuang to Taiyuan will take only an hour. The new line is estimated to carry 15 million one-way passengers a year.

Since the line will be built in mountain areas, 94 bridges and 32 tunnels, including China’s would-be longest tunnel with a length of 27.839 kilometers, will be needed, accounting for more than 60 percent of the total length of the railway.

Liu Zhijun, minister of railways, said this line will distribute the passenger flow and let the original passenger-goods mixed lines carry more coal from Shanxi, one of China’s coal base.

China will build 120,000 kilometers of passenger lines by 2020. At present, there is only one passenger line, which runs from Shenyang, capital city of northeast China’s Liaoning Province to Qinhuangdao, a port of Hebei Province, with a length of 400 kilometers.


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Tenerife tram plans get funding

Tenerife is getting a 70-mile long tram.

The news came last week after the Spanish Senate okayed a plan in which in which the central government would pay for half the costs.

Tenerife is part of the Canary Islands, a Spanish possession about 100 miles west of Africa. It is a tourist mecca with about 2 million visitors annually.

The ¤346 million project will link Santa Cruz to Laguna with what was described in Island Connections, an English language weekly newspaper, as “a high-speed, environmentally friendly tramway to transport commuters between the two communities.”

No details were published regarding gauge or other infrastructure details, nor rolling stock.


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OFF THE MAIN LINE...  Off the main line...

Lionel, Amtrak want kids’ essays

Amtrak and Lionel are connecting this summer for the 6th annual Lionel Kid’s Essay Contest. This year the contest has been expanded to include 43 trains from across the country. Children ages 12 and under will have a chance to win The Polar Express train by simply describing what they like best about riding Amtrak. The contest begins this month and continues through August 31.

Young Amtrak travelers will be able to win one of 28 first-prize Lionel Polar Express toy train sets. Winners will be judged on content and originality by a panel of Amtrak judges.

“In previous years, children’s responses about train travel have mirrored those of their parents,” said Amtrak’s Barbara Richardson, Vice President of Marketing and Sales.

“Children, too, enjoy the comfortable setting and scenic views. With entries coming in nationwide this year, we look forward to seeing the same sentiments expressed from children living coast-to-coast and from all corners of the country.”

Entry forms are available aboard 43 Amtrak routes around the country.

Lionel was established in 1900, and its name is the most widely recognized brand in the toy train industry.


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End Notes...

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